Let’s stamp out the idea that Labour is anti-business

Stephen Kinnock MP and Hamish Sandison, Chair of Labour Business, outline how to bust the myth that Labour is anti-business. First published in Labour List, Thursday 13th May

Last week, London was Boris Johnson’s London. This week, London is a changed city, a Labour London – Sadiq Khan’s London.

There is much we can and should learn from Sadiq’s fantastic campaign, not least that a campaign of hope and unity will always triumph over one of cynicism and divisiveness. Both in London and in Wales, we have seen that Labour only wins when we talk about the issues people care about, and when we reach out beyond our core vote and engage with the entire electorate, regardless of background.

Sadiq will be the most pro-business Mayor London has seen, and just as we have seen in Wales, under Carwyn’s leadership, he will blaze a trail for UK Labour, showing how Labour can govern, deliver change and be pro-business, but not pro-business as usual.

We know our economy is built on faulty foundations, too reliant on financial services, too unequal, too unbalanced and too shortsighted. Our job is to identify how we can re-build those foundations so that they are more resilient, supporting a broad-based model of growth and ensuring that government, business and trades unions are partners for a new kind of growth.

The pamphlet we are publishing, Stephen Kinnock’s The Labour Party and Business: Partners for a new kind of Growth, was launched at the Labour Business reception on Monday night, in a packed room just off Westminster Hall. It builds on these ideas and gives us a starter for ten. The idea at its heart is that Labour can chart a new, more prosperous, sustainable and ethical course for our economy, but only if we work together.

The job of progressive politics is not simply to react and adapt to change; it is to become an engine for change of a new and different kind. But how we do that is something that cannot be answered from within the Westminster bubble. The answer will require partnership; it will require everyone who was in the room last night, those of you reading this piece and thousands of others across the country to partner with us to find those answers.

That is precisely what our movement must be, a broad church, open and engaged, committed to reform, resolutely pro-business, but not pro-business as ususal. This was the message that was delivered loud and clear at the Labour Business reception on Monday night.

Labour Business is the oldest, largest and only business group affiliated to the Party, and it does what it says on the tin. Labour Business aims to help Labour win by demonstrating our economic credibility and developing the pro-business, pro-reform policies that will make Britain a better country.

On Monday night, over 10 members and business figures were joined by John McDonnell, Angela Eagle, Tom Watson, Seema Malhotra, Bill Esterson, and Anthony Watson (the chair of Labour’s Business and Enterprise Council). We were proud to be co-hosting the event.

We heard from John and Angela how Labour Business will be a central part of the policy-making architecture of our Party, building a bridge with the business community. While we may have had a strong pro-business, pro-reform agenda at the last election, what cannot be denied is that the mood music was wrong. We were perceived as “anti-business”, and the truth is, in politics perception is reality.

Monday night’s event marked the beginning of the end of that perception, and placed Labour Business at the heart of our road back to government. Seema and Bill reminded us of how business is always better off under Labour governments, talking about their personal and family experiences of the contrast for small business under Labour and the Tories.

Angela spoke of the need for an industrial strategy, something starkly demonstrated by the steel crisis, and the opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Anthony Watson, straight from the frontline of that Fourth Industrial Revolution, talked about the importance of technology in the new economy. Just as Labour Business will be at the heart of building the centre-left agenda around the next industrial revolution, it will similarly be central to building the entrepreneurial state spoken of by John.

So please, join us in forging the partnership for a new kind of growth that will lead Labour back into government; join Labour Business. We need you, and if we get it right we will see a Labour government in 2020, a Labour government that will, like Carwyn’s in Wales and Sadiq’s in London, bring hope, security, aspiration and excitement to the lives of those we represent and champion.


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Written by Tom Morrison-Bell